The University of Santo Tomas officially opened the Academic Year 2023-2024 with the Misa de Apertura (Mass of the Holy Spirit), presided over by the Bishop of Marbel, South Cotabato, His Excellency Most Rev. Cerilo Alan U. Casicas, D.D., and concelebrated with the Dominican Fathers.
The Bishop, in his homily, shared his reflections on the Holy Spirit and the nature of truth, as held at the core of the University’s motto, “Veritas in Caritate” or truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
“In your [University] motto, truth/veritas is not simply abstract academic truth. Truth and charity, truth and God’s love are one and the same. Truth is not truth if we have not found the love of God revealed in Christ,” said Bishop Casicas, who added that “Everything is there in Christ, but we cannot see it unless a spotlight is shown on it and we are given an eye and heart to see it, that is the Spirit. The greatest gift of the Spirit is to lead us to that truth.”
Bishop Casicas likened life without seeing the truth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to only seeing facades instead of the entirety of a structure: “It’s like going into this beautiful campus of yours, looking at an old building, and seeing just windows and maybe moss on the walls, but if you studied architecture, then these are not simply windows and columns. They unfold before you the beauty of the building, the beauty that draws you in, that gets your attention.”
“I hope, in your stay here in UST, that truth and charity are one because the Spirit leads you to it, that you do not just see columns or windows, but you see the heart of our faith in Christ and the light of the Spirit. The Spirit is not just a light that shines outside, but one that also shines within,” shared Bishop Casicas.
The Bishop further encouraged Thomasians to “Find that light and spark within you. It leads you to Christ, not just through his sayings or through his works, but you see that everything leads to the Father, to whom he comes from and returns to in love, and the love between them is no other than the Spirit. That’s why the Spirit alone can lead us to the truth that is love and the love that is truth.”
The prelate also noted that having a Mass of the Holy Spirit is a highly regarded tradition for many Catholic schools to begin a new academic year properly. “[When] the Spirit is at work within us, it draws us, and conforms us to the love of God, not romantic, but the crucified, christened love of Christ–That’s the love that we know as Christians.”
“How do we know that we have assumed and played the role of Christ by listening to the Spirit?” asked Bishop Casicas. “If we live a life of self-emptying or being centered on others, being humble and self-sacrificing,” he answered, calling the process the ‘unselfing’.
Unselfing, as defined by the Bishop, is when the self is negated because it finds something or someone greater than itself. This mindset can lead to living out Veritas in Caritate, since much like how the Hebrew word for ‘spirit’ can also mean ‘breath’, one must eventually exhale or share the self outward, rather than keeping or holding it indefinitely, said Bishop Casicas.
He further explained the concept with an example for the community: “How do we know that the Spirit is really at work in UST? When UST is open and makes sacrifices not for what is within. When it becomes more sensitive, serving, humble, sacrificing, not only for what is within its community and the University, but even outside, those in the periphery.”
The Bishop also urged the community to truly live Christ’s core values, cautioning against empty gestures. “We have our traditional pious signs of our Catholic faith. We continue [doing] the sign of the cross, the rosary, Mass, many others, but all of these are empty without ‘unselfing’. Without unselfing, we might be called Catholic, but the Spirit is not in us. Without unselfing, we may be called a Catholic institution, but we will have driven away the Spirit,” Bishop Casicas emphasized.
After Bishop Casicas officially opened the Academic Year 2023-2024 at the end of the Mass of the Holy Spirit or Misa de Apertura, it was immediately followed by the Discurso de Apertura (Inaugural Lecture), which was delivered by Academician Prof. Maribel G. Nonato, Ph.D., the Assistant to the Rector for UST General Santos. She discussed “C.A.R.E. in the 21st Century Academic Institution”.
Regular classes commenced on August 9, 2023, with most classes proceeding via hybrid arrangements through the Enriched Virtual Mode (EVM) of education. The University’s health policies, such as masking in crowded areas and indoors, frequent hand sanitization, and thermal screening, among others, remain highly encouraged.